Four new opinions, with two involving circuit splits

Third Circuit decisions that create new circuit splits are rare, but it happened on Monday in a criminal-sentencing case and then again today in an immigration case.


Sanchez v. Secretary U.S. DHS — immigration — reversal — Hardiman

In what looks to me like a significant immigration ruling, the Third Circuit held today that an immigrant who is lawfully in the U.S. due to a grant of Temporary Protected Status cannot qualify for permanent residence under an INA provision applicable to people who were “inspected and admitted or paroled” in the U.S. The case turned on whether conferral of TPS constituted admission: the court held that it did not based on the statutory text, context, and purpose. The court created a split with the other two circuits to answer the question, the Sixth and Ninth Circuits.

Joining Hardiman were Porter and Phipps. Arguing counsel were Matthew Glover of the DOJ Civil Division for the government, Jaime Aparisi of Maryland for the immigrants, and Mary Kenney of the National Immigration Litigation Alliane for amicus in support of the immigrants.


St. Lukes Health Network Inc. v. Lancaster General Hosp.—civil / RICO — reversal — Greenaway, Jr.

The cogent introduction:

This case involves a state-run program to reimburse Pennsylvania hospitals for treating indigent patients. Plaintiffs-Appellants are a group of hospitals and their related health care networks that seek civil remedies from Defendants-Appellees, another hospital and hospital system, for violations of the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c)–(d). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants submitted fraudulent claims for reimbursement, in violation of the wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and received an unduly inflated proportion of the available funding. As a result, Plaintiffs claim they were reimbursed an artificially smaller share of funds. The District Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of RICO standing, an additional requirement to Article III standing. It found that Plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts to demonstrate that their injury was caused by Defendants’ alleged fraud.

Because we find Plaintiffs’ theory of liability adequately alleges proximate causation, we will reverse the District Court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Joining Greenaway, Jr. were Porter and Matey. Arguing counsel were Brian Barnes of Cooper & Kirk for the appellants and Kevin Fay of Eckert Seamans for the appellees.


U.S. v. Seighman — criminal — affirmance — Hardiman

A defendant was convicted of a crime for which the statutory maximum sentence was 60 months in prison. After serving 54 months in prison and while out on supervised release, he violated his conditions of release. The judge revoked release and sentenced him to another 24 months in prison for the violation. On appeal, the defendant argued that the revocation sentence was invalid in light of the Supreme Court ruling last year in United States v. Haymond.

Reviewing for plain error, the Third Circuit yesterday affirmed. It distinguished this situation from the three factors relied on to reverse by Justice Breyer’s controlling opinion in Haymond, and it held that in any event any error was not plain because question was novel.

Joining Hardiman were Phipps and Nygaard. Arguing counsel were Jacob Schuman of the EDPA Federal Defenders for the defendant and Adam Hallowell of the WDPA US Attorney’s office for the government.


U.S. v. Birt — criminal — affirmance — Jordan

The First Step Act enacted by Congress in 2018 allows courts to retroactively reduce the sentences of defendants convicted of a “covered offense,” defined as one whose penalties were modified by the earlier Fair Sentencing Act. The Third Circuit held on Monday that a conviction for crack cocaine possession under 28 USC § 841 (a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) was not a 1SA “covered offense.” This holding creates a split with the First Circuit and deepens another split on a subsidiary question.

Joining Jordan were Ambro and Shwartz. Arguing counsel were Frederick Ulrich of the MDPA Federal Defenders for the defendant and William Behe of the MDPA US Attorney’s office for the government.